Trial begins for ex-con accused of attacking police officers

RIVERSIDE – Jury selection got underway today for the trial of an ex-convict accused of trying to run over several Riverside police officers during a pursuit, prompting the lawmen to shoot him.

James Chad Horton, 35, could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted in the March 2012 incident.

Horton is charged with assault on a peace officer, reckless driving, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon. He also has a felony strike on his record.

According to court papers, in the past decade, Horton has been convicted separately of making criminal threats, auto theft and recklessly discharging a firearm.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher today summoned prospective jurors to the Riverside Hall of Justice for screening as to their qualifications and availability. Opening statements in the case are not expected until next week.

Horton remains held in lieu of $210,000 bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.

According to Riverside police, officers attempted to stop Horton for a traffic violation in the predawn hours of March 23, 2012, but the defendant drove away in a 2004 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.

During the ensuing five-minute chase, Horton allegedly drove in excess of 80 mph on city streets, making U-turns and occasionally driving on the wrong side of the road — until he got boxed in on Donald Street, police said.

The defendant allegedly rammed a patrol car with officers next to it several times while trying to escape, prompting four officers to open fire on the Tacoma, according to investigators.

Horton’s passenger, John Eddie Walton, jumped out of the pickup and was immediately arrested.

According to police, the truck became disabled after Horton struck a power pole, and the defendant fled on foot.

A 90-minute search ensued, during which a police K-9 officer located Horton in the backyard of a home in the 3700 block of Everest Avenue. He surrendered after a police dog bit him.

The defendant was treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound at Riverside Community Hospital and later booked into jail.

In August 2012, Walton pleaded guilty to being a convicted felon with a gun and committing a felony while on bail and was sentenced to four years, eight months in prison.

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